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What is the right track to becoming a college professor?  I am currently attending...

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mta5055 | Student, Undergraduate

Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:14 AM via web

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What is the right track to becoming a college professor?  

I am currently attending Penn State University as an elementary education major. I'm already in my junior year so I am not changing majors, but I do have some pretty clear goals. In short, I would like to teach History (Western Civilization) at the college level. 

Could I do this by completing my major in elementary education and adding a minor in history and then going to grad school? Or are there other tracks that would help me instead.

However, if I remain with a major in elementary education, I know I will be more marketable once I am able to teach elementary and college. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:47 AM (Answer #2)

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I have to say that I think that you should simply give up the ElEd and go right into History.

I ran into the same problem as an undergrad and just threw up my hands and started over (basically).

Colleges and universities are not going to look at you teaching K-8 and believe that you are ready to teach as a professor. My suggestion would be to go for the History degree, then Master's, and finally PhD so that you are following the typical line for becoming a professor.

I know that you have probably worked very hard towards the ElEd degree, but if you are wanting to teach college level you need to start now.

 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 8:25 AM (Answer #3)

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I agree with the previous post.  I earned a Ph.D. and then became a high school teacher.  When I was still thinking about going into academia, I would hear professors talk about how departments don't even like to hire community college teachers because they're not seen as "serious" about research.  Tenure track jobs are all about research and an elementary ed degree is not going to impress anyone.

So, if you apply to grad schools with an elementary ed major, you're really going to have to convince them that you're serious about academia.  They'll be suspicious of you and it will make it that much harder to get into a good grad school.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 4, 2011 at 9:13 AM (Answer #4)

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Sorry, forgot to put in the websites.

http://education-portal.com/history_professor.html

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos066.htm

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 9:49 AM (Answer #5)

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First of all, it is difficult to get teaching jobs at universities. One thing people don't often realize is that you usually need to relocate to get a post, sometimes even to a different country. I have an EDD and I know two people personally that had to take posts in foreign countries. However, to teach community college all you need is a MA degree, and you can teach courses in your evenings while teaching elementary by day. Personally, I teach at an online university and days in a school. So that's an option.
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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 8, 2011 at 2:33 AM (Answer #6)

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The best professors I had as an undergrad were the ones who had begun their careers in front of a public school classroom -sadly, most profs have not had much in the way of educational training, it's all been subject matter, and many of them haven't a clue how to transmit their knowledge effectively. You are smart to get a teaching credential since you are half way there, it is a solid backup job. As other posters have pointed out, getting college jobs is difficult, and the current economic outlook dictates that it will get worse before it gets better. Having a fall back position can't hurt, and it could also help you land a teaching assistantship in grad school , which would help you finance your education.

There are a couple of things you can start working on now that will help you achieve your goal without wasting what you have done so far. Look into adding a minor in history or social studies to your current major. Start doing some professional networking with the people you want to end up affiliated with - join the American Historical Association, and state or local history society, and start going to meetings. Look for opportunities to get your work out there  -give a talk for a local society, blog or write essays and submit them, start building that resume now - it will show that you are serious, and put you miles ahead of other applicants right out of the gate.

Another possibility is to try to create a research project of your own that you can showcase. I work summers at a state park that is the former home of a nationally-known politician. His papers are archived at a local university, but we have learned that there are boxes in the archive that have not been opened in decades, and are only cursorily catalogued. If you can find a situation like that near you, and you're willing to take it on as a task, you become an instant expert on something, and you can get a lot of mileage out of that. it's all up to you - how much energy and creativity are you willing to invest in reaching your goal?

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:36 AM (Answer #7)

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I think it will be more difficult with an elementary ed degree, but not impossible. You could start out teaching elementary ed while you get your masters degree. I'm not sure what state you are in, but you might want to consider licensure in other areas as well. I know in North Carolina, you could just take the praxis II in other areas like middle school and high school (of course that requires a specific content area) to get your license. Some schools offer programs for teachers with a masters to participate in a student teaching program or teach underclassmen while they get their PhDs. I know our local community college also has a program where you can begin teaching college while you are getting your masters. I agree with the previous post though that it will be hard to get a job teaching college with an elementary education degree. Have you considered other alternatives to teaching college? With an elementary education degree you can do other things besides teach. You could seek a job at a preschool or even as a preschool director. With your masters, you might even find a job as an educational director somewhere (like a children's museum). I'm not sure how marketable you'll be as a college history professor when you have only taught elementary age students.
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cuyjetw | College Teacher

Posted August 8, 2011 at 7:07 AM (Answer #8)

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When I went to college I wanted to teach at the college level. A Master's degree was absolutely necessary to become an adjunct professor at the community college level. I taught at a four-year college (Boriqua) in New York City for two semesters. I taught in Communication colleges for a few years. My Master's Degree is in US History with my thesis focused on Native American History. I would definitely pursue the PhD in your discipline if you are looking for a tenured professorial position. Most universities require you to be published in your field as part of the tenure track. All the best to you.
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teachersyl | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:56 PM (Answer #9)

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I have a friend who teaches at a community college and is an adjunct at a University. She had told me the only way to become a full professor at the University is by "putting in your time" as an adjunct. She was an English major in college, and is only now going for an education degree.

I would actually speak to your history professors-- maybe some of them worked in other schools and could tell you what got them there.

You can always get certified without the degree in Education. Something to think about.

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teacherpfrancisco | Elementary School Teacher

Posted August 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM (Answer #10)

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I have an MS in Dietetics and taught in community colleges and as a lecturer at the university level for 15 years.  It became clear that I was never going to get a tenure track position until I had a Ph.D., so I went to USC to get one.  It turned out that I got some bad advice....area or field DOES matter! 

University departments are looking for experts in an area they need to fill.  They do not hire just any Ph.D.  That is why they do national searches for just the right person for their opening, and that is why young Ph.D.s must be willing to move to wherever they get offered a tenure track position.

To answer your specific question: your undergraduate degree doesn't matter all that much.  Most graduate programs are looking for applicants that show promise in their scholarship and creative approaches to problem solving.  It is a good idea to have the ability to work if you are not independently wealthy so you can pay for your graduate school.  There are scholarships, but not that many in history. 

Getting a Ph.D. is education for the looooooooooong haul.  It takes close to 3 years to complete the coursework and then usually 2+ to do the original research for your disertaion, and then you have to write the disertation.  You have to really want to finish, and you have to find your disertation topic very interesting to work hard enough to get everything done.  Good luck to you!!

teacherpfrancisco

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 18, 2011 at 5:08 AM (Answer #11)

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As someone who has been on many graduate admissions committees, I would suggest that you switch to a history major. Education majors are viewed as woefully underprepared and often among the weakest students academically.

If you switch to a history major, make sure to complete at least 2 years of a foreign language  - admissions committees look favorably on students who are well along in their language requirements. You also need to think a bit about the area in which you intend to specialize in your PhD and make sure your background is approprate. If you intend to do ancient history or medieval history, you need Latin, French and German by the end of your MA -- you should have at least 1 and ideally 2 of them when applying. For world history, you need some background in a non-Indo-European language and non-western history, etc.

You might talk with the grad admissions director for history on your campus to get a better idea of what courses you should take.

 

 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 18, 2011 at 5:15 AM (Answer #12)

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I have a friend who teaches at a community college and is an adjunct at a University. She had told me the only way to become a full professor at the University is by "putting in your time" as an adjunct. She was an English major in college, and is only now going for an education degree.

I would actually speak to your history professors-- maybe some of them worked in other schools and could tell you what got them there.

You can always get certified without the degree in Education. Something to think about.

No -- most search committees see people who have been adjuncts for too long as perpetual adjuncts not as potential tenure stream hires. The distinction between tenure stream and adjunct hires is that one is a research position, the other a part-time teaching job. For credibility as a researcher, you need a steady production rate of 2 major articles per year in refereed journals, a book every 5-6 years, and active participation in conferences, peer reviewing, grants, etc.

The way to a tenure stream post is to publish at least 2-4 major articles and do several minor articles or reviews and conference presentations during graduate school, and complete an excellent dissertation which can easily be revised into a book.

Post-docs and visiting assistant preofessor positions are good on your CV -- but if after 4-5 years out of a PhD you don`t have a tenure stream job, you probably will not get one. Then it is time to look for community college or other positions.

 

 

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